Saturday, 27 July 2013

News & Boston

As I write this it's being reported by some news organisations (citing "The Boston Globe") that one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing case has been arrested after a gun battle starting at MIT.

I was listening to David Willis on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme and he was commenting on the story.

David Willis is my hero today.

Rather than a weak "The Boston Globe are reporting...." and then going for the speculation that everyone else is indulging in, he added the hugely important "the source has yet to be independently verified" line.


Thank you David Willis.

One source is never enough. This may be a hangover from recent BBC difficulties, but I think it's something better. When I started work as a reporter for the BBC many years ago I was always told "It's better to be right than first" let everyone else scrap it out for the breaking news and let the BBC get it right.

EDIT - After posting this blog I heard from a friend who produces one of the BBC's flag ship news programmes. She told me that she had spent the morning fielding angry audience calls berating the organisation for NOT keeping up with Sky News. The audience didn't care that they wanted to be right, they wanted them to be first.

I responded with a reminder that less than one percent of the audience will get in contact with a programme and the ones that do are from that special self selecting group who are the sort of people who get in contact with a programme... or in other words, they aren't the typical audience members... normal people don't get in contact.

Is this why there's emphasis on first rather than right? Because the tiny percentage of the audience who get in contact are the ones who demand the news be first? 

I don't know.

For further comment on this phenomenon have a listen to the Friday the 19th of April podcast of 'On The Media' from NPR in the US; that have some very relevant cometary on whether first and wrong is ever right. 

 

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